What is the Number 1 Challenge with Demand Planning in Contact Centres?

Last week I attended the latest CallNorthWest Forum hosted by Lancashire Constabulary in Preston. CallNorthWest provides a fantastic opportunity for contact centres large and small to network, seek out best practice and receive training on the latest customer service trends.

The afternoon session was hosted by Steve Woosey of the Professional Planning Forum, another organisation focused on improving the Contact Centre market. Throughout the afternoon Steve posed attendees a set of questions to be discussed on each table before inviting findings to be shared with everyone.

One question and its answer really jumped out at me.

“What is the main challenge you have with forecasting demand in your contact centre?”

Without disclosing the actual companies on our table, one was a contact centre outsourcer and the other was a B2C retail business. Both companies immediately offered the same reason: “Poor or non-existent communication from other departments about activity they are undertaking.”

Any of these actions could result in an unplanned spike in call volume either immediately, or over a number of weeks.

  • A new marketing campaign
  • A new sales offer
  • Higher than average closed sales
  • A change of terms and conditions
  • A new bill format
  • A change in billing date
  • A delay in postage of a monthly bill

The issue of communication was even more pronounced in the outsourcer we were talking to – often the first they know of a customer’s new marketing campaign is the spike in call traffic which they have to deal with as best they can.

It was the same answer across every table in the room. Encompassing a wide range of industries and sizes of contact centre, the primary challenge to forecasting demand was an internal one – poor communication of the drivers of call volume.

How to resolve the communication issue.

Often those that work in contact centres feel that other departments view their business unit as ‘separate’ to the core business resulting in a lack of foresight when planning activities. Here are three suggestions for encouraging empathy for the contact centre and improving communication of the drivers of call volumes.

1. Get divisional leaders to spend a day in the contact centre

If you know that a billing run is about to occur, or that an unexpected marketing campaign is now driving calls into the contact centre, invite the relevant divisional leader to come and spend the day working in the thick of it, observing the real results of their actions on your team and your customers.

Explain that without planning you cannot instantly turn on extra team members and this results in unhappy advisors and unhappy customers.

2. Price up the additional costs

If your finance department changes the way your bills are laid out or your web team changes the login process for your service, you are likely to experience increased call volumes.

Take the time to work out the cost of this additional call volume, whether it be paying over-time, or taking staff away from other activities like training. At CallNorthWest some businesses explained they started cross-charging this additional expenditure and saw a rapid improvement in communication!

3. Visualise the lost revenue due to poor planning

If your marketing or sales team are running a new campaign it is such a waste if the valuable leads they have generated cannot get through or abandon after an extended wait, purely because you do not have enough advisors available to take their calls.

Look at how many calls are abandoned and what potential pipeline this would have created. Suddenly the email they didn’t send to you looks quite expensive!

Communication can be improved

The positive side of this discussion was that the biggest planning challenge is an internal one – it isn’t related to weather or economics or politics. The solution lies in our own internal business processes to ensure that companies think like a single team and empathise with those colleagues working in the contact centre.

What is the number one challenge you have forecasting demand in your contact centre? What tactics have you employed to improve communication between departments?

For more information on how NewVoiceMedia helps you to amaze your customers when they call you visit our ContactWorld page.

Written by Vonage Staff

Deskphone with Vonage logo

Contact a Vonage expert.

We'll get back to you shortly.